WHITING | Martina Mirelez is ready to get her life back.
She and her husband, Markos Mirelez, 46, have temporarily called a local Motel 8 home since a fire destroyed their home in the 1900 block of Indianapolis Boulevard in Whiting last week.
Since the fire, family members and strangers have rallied around the couple to help them get back on their feet.
Their niece, Linda Mirelez, of Munster, created an online Go Fund Me page to help raise money for the couple. As of Wednesday, 30 people had donated a total of $920.
On Saturday, a fundraiser brought in $2,600 that the couple plan to use toward a temporary apartment.
Linda Mirelez said she created the online fundraising page Tuesday after hearing about the fire that destroyed her aunt and uncle's house. She also started calling businesses to see if any would donate food vouchers.
"From what I can tell, everything is gone," she said. "Even (Markos Mirelez's) work uniform is gone."
Markos Mirelez fell into a deep sleep Jan. 6 after getting home from his job at UPS and forgot there was a pot of boiling chicken on the stove. An employee of a nearby Walgreens noticed smoke coming from the door and told a Coca-Cola delivery man, who ran across the street and woke Mirelez.
Whiting Fire Chief Gus Danielides said several items on the stove ignited the fire. Flames shot up the kitchen wall into the second floor. Fire officials determined the fire was accidental.
Martina Mirelez said she was working at BP's Whiting Refinery when she got the call about the fire. Her husband was able to get out of the house unharmed.
Danielides said the structure had significant damage and remains unstable.
"We are grateful to be here," Martina Mirelez said. "Especially him, since he was home at the time."
Martina Mirelez said it seems their life has been on hold since the fire. This week the couple were able to go back to their house and get their cars working again.
AfterMath Relief, a Hammond organization, has been helping the couple get basic hygiene products, she said. The organization also has helped provide transportation for the couple.
They have spent the past couple of days looking for an apartment as they figure out what to do with their home. Martina Mirelez said they had recently fallen behind on insurance payments, which means the future of their house is still unclear.
"I'm ready to go back to work and get our lives back," she said.